It was good to see the Pride of Baltimore II on your site the other day. I am one of two captains of the ship (we split the season 50/50), and I have a long background in racing before I became a schooner guy.
Many people look at Pride and see a sort of museum piece- but she’s fast and weatherly by almost any standard, and the tradition has always been to sail her hard. This is a tradition I have happily continued. We did a series of races on the Great Lakes this summer against other tall ships.
This is my first season with the ship, and I asked our senior captain, Jan Miles, just how hard I could drive the ship and what were safe limits for certain sail combinations. He replied: “Oh, just push it til it breaks.” (He meant in this context that the rig has so much redundancy that the thing that broke first would be a 20 dollar length of 3 strand rope- the topgallant sheet- rather than anything crucial, but it is illustrative of the mindset.) The crew is 12- captain, cook, and 10 mates and deckhands. They have a competitive drive and desire for efficiency that rivals many top-flight racing programs I have been involved in.
Pride has a high powered, complex rig, powered almost entirely by block and tackle (though we do have 2 small windlasses, called crank-alls- one at each mast.) Just to give some idea of the workload, here’s what happens during a gybe under full sail:
Douse weather stuns’l
-Sheet in foresail
-take up lee foremast running backstay
-ease and detach main boom preventer
-turn the boat (finally- it can be fun waiting for all this stuff while you’re bearing down on a shoal at 9 knots)
-As boat turns through the gybe, one group gybes the main and switches the main runners while the other braces the yards
-After the turn, pass the 3 headsails
-Switch mainmast running forestays
-Ease new lee foremast running backstay
-pass foresail onto new gybe (it’s loose footed, and overlaps the mainmast like a genoa)
-Set up main boom preventer on new gybe and haul boom outboard with it (due to our extreme rake, this needs to be done when running deep downwind)
-Set stuns’l on new gybe
-blow snot bubbles
(Le Renard Subtil)
in the name of love
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